Why Office Politics Really Aren’t Such a Bad Thing

The best way to eliminate office politics is to stop them at the source. (Photo by istockphoto.com).

Office politics.

The very phrase typically garners a visceral reaction, everything from a subtle tensing of the shoulders to an eye roll, to an outspoken declaration that they will NEVER engage in political wrangling.

Here’s the bad news: Office politics is not something you can opt out of. Why? Because everyone around you is playing. You are in it whether you like it or not.

The good news is that if you choose to engage in it, office politics can be navigated in a way that is ethical, above board, and will help you build better relationships with the people you work with. Even better, when you learn to play the game, you can become a change agent in your organization.

It’s not all negative

It’s very easy to blame office politics for all the negative things you experience at work.

  • Your proposal got rejected? Your workplace enemy was playing office politics.
  • The co-worker you don’t like got a promotion over you? They were playing office politics.
  • You weren’t included in a meeting that you should have been? Politics, politics, POLITICS.

But here’s the thing: Office politics are also responsible for a lot of good that happens at work.

We like to think that when things go right, it’s all about our hard work, and that certainly plays a role. But office politics are also at play. Here’s why:

Office politics is all about relationships

At its core, the workplace is a social environment and office politics is nothing more than the unspoken rules that govern it. Learning to thrive in that environment is contingent on building effective working relationships so that you can excerpt influence across your organization, regardless of where you happen to rank on the organizational chart.

In other words, people have to like you. And like working with you. If they don’t you’re going to lose. If they do, you set yourself up to win.

Think about it – how many times have you seen a person who is best friends with the boss benefit professionally from it? And, on the flip side, how many times have you seen someone who is highly qualified be passed over because they weren’t the boss’s favorite person?

Why does this occur? Because people (yes, even you!) are driven by emotion far more than they are by logic and reason. That means that when they like someone and enjoy working with them, they are more likely to look favorably on the things they want, need, and ask for.

They’re more likely to overlook flaws, or say “give so-and-so a break, they’re trying so hard.” That’s not evil or wrong – that’s just human nature.

So engage in office politics

It’s time to stop labeling office politics as purely evil. Sure, people can use it for evil, but there’s also a lot of good to be done.

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You can become an agent of positive change in your organization and get more done if you proactively engage and build relationships with your co-workers. And, as an extra bonus, you’ll probably be much happier at work, and advance faster professionally.

Want more? Enroll in my online course that will help you master the art of navigating office politics.

This was originally published on Zen Workplace.